PORTLAND — With the completion of a nearly $23 million capital campaign, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute is confident it has secured its long-term viability.

Specifically, the money will provide the research facility with “the flexibility to explore new initiatives (and) answer important questions around seafood growth, adaptive coastal communities and engaging the public,” Elijah Miller, the organization’s communications manager, said recently.

He said GMRI’s mission of preserving and sustaining the gulf is more important now than ever.

“The Gulf of Maine is a critical ocean hotspot. Here, deep basins, shallow banks, powerful tides and famously variable weather sustain high productivity and a culture of ocean innovation built over generations,” Miller said. “(But) research from our lab shows our waters have warmed faster than 99 percent of the global ocean over the course of a decade.”

He said coastal communities are already grappling with a pace of change that many parts of the world won’t experience for years to come, and the lessons learned in Maine will have the potential to help communities around the world.

During its annual Leadership Dinner last week, GMRI celebrated the success of its four-year fundraising drive.

The research center raised $22.8 million, which will be used to fund marine research and educational programs that will benefit students all across Maine, among other programs.

What made the capital campaign special, according to Don Perkins, CEO and president of the institute, is that many first-time contributors pitched in, including more than 130 new annual donors who pledged to give at least $1,000 a year.

In addition, the bulk of the funds raised came from individuals; $4.6 million came from private foundations and corporations. “As a young institution, we are humbled by the many donors who stepped forward and expressed confidence in our work,” Perkins said.

“The Gulf of Maine Research Institute has grown rapidly since building its Commercial Street lab in 2005,” he said. When it started, the organization had a staff of fewer than 20 and an operating budget of $3.5 million.

Now, Perkins said, the research center has an $11 million annual budget and employs more than 70 scientists, seafood experts and education professionals, along with administrative staff.

“When we first built the lab, we had a dream about what this place could be. Today, we’ve realized that dream,” he said. “People around here know the Gulf of Maine is special and nothing proves that more than the support we’ve received from our community. We’re so grateful for their commitment to our shared goals.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute was built in 2005 on Commercial Street in Portland, with an annual budget of $3.5 million that has grown to $11 million. Funds are used to study the gulf and employ scientists, among other expenditures.

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